This is an extremely unique time to be a medical student. COVID-19 has changed the landscape of what medical education looked like over this past semester, and it promises to continue to change what it looks like going forward. First and second-year medical students had to transition to a largely online curriculum and I can’t imagine that was easy on students or faculty. My fellow classmates and I, as third-year students, took nearly two months off of in-person rotations, making way for online education as well as giving us extra time to prepare for our upcoming board exams. However, it has been difficult. We all want to be out on rotations helping in whatever way we can, but we understand how our presence may contribute to the spread of disease.
This problem will likely carry over into our 4th year, a time where medical students typically go out on away rotations to experience and “audition” with residency programs that we may be interested in. Many guidelines have come out advising that students and programs alike take increased precautions when determining policies on away rotations, and many programs have already made the decision that they will not be accepting visiting students this coming academic year, keeping in mind the safety of their staff and their patients. This has presented a dilemma for medical students; as future physicians, we always want to keep the patients’ best interests in mind and want to do whatever we can to keep them safe. Maybe our presence compromises this commitment to patient safety. However, as future physicians, we also want to be as best prepared as we possibly can to provide the greatest care for our future patients. Missing out on away rotations may decrease our preparation for our looming internships and residencies.
So what do we do? This question has been at the forefront of talks between numerous medical societies, medical schools, residency programs, and students themselves. Policies are being written, advisory statements are being made, all while students and institutions scramble to figure out what best way to serve both patients and students. In the midst of all this chaos, it has been easy for me to lose sight of the end goal. I have been frustrated, but I know that this bump in the road won’t keep myself or my classmates from being great physicians, and with everyone working together in this crisis we will come out stronger than we ever have been before.